Are you a fly by the seat of your pants traveller or do you print out an itinerary weeks in advance? I like to think that I go with the flow once I am in a destination, but I definitely like to research the bejesus out of a city beforehand! So, when we had the chance to get our spontaneous hats on with srprs.me where you don’t even find out your destination until you get to the airport, I found it oh-so hard not to try my best to guess where we were going to end up. And as you may have ascertained from the title, it was a weekend in Krakow! Here’s what we got up to on our visit – if you’re looking for a budget city break in Europe, it might just tick your boxes…
Things to do on a weekend in Krakow
Here comes the cultural sights bit… concentrate
If you’re into your pretty churches and historical buildings, take a turn around the main market square and pop into the awesome St. Mary’s Basilica with its amazing gothic interiors and beautiful stained glass. Krakow avoided the damage that was done to many other cities in World War II so many of the old brick buildings that surround the square are centuries old.
Wawel Castle is also a picturesque sight with its medieval, renaissance and baroque architecture – it was the residence of the kings of Poland for centuries but now houses a huge collection of art.
However, our cultural highlight was the Wieliczka Salt Mine where an hour and a half tour takes you hundreds of metres down into the bowels of the earth to see the vast caverns and sculptures the miners carved out of salt. As well as learning a bit about what the conditions were like back in the day – slippy, dark but ultimately pretty lucrative seeing as salt was super valuable – we were blown away by the eerie underground lakes and intricate carvings. Huge salt chandeliers had been hung in some of the underground caverns and the mine is actually used as an event venue and for weddings in the present day.
Cool places to eat and drink in Krakow
Now I’m going to cut to the chase and get straight into the food and drink of Krakow and the best areas to go. Because when I heard we were spending the weekend in Krakow, my first thought was ‘ooh, vodka!’ and one of my first thoughts on waking each day is ‘ooh, what shall I eat?’
Our favourite part of town was the former Jewish Quarter or Kazimierz as it is now called. Whilst it was the centre of Jewish life in Krakow for hundreds of years, it was pretty much destroyed during the harrowing times of World War II.
Nowadays the district has become the boho, hipster neighbourhood of your plaid and black-framed glasses wearing dreams with quirky cafes, bars and galleries hidden behind derelicte chic, peeling facades. This is where to come for cafe culture and nightlife with an alternative vibe… oh and everything is pretty wallet-friendly too – you don’t have to spend heaps to have a good time on a weekend in Krakow.
Absynt. A bar with a 1920s art deco twist, the clue to what they specialise in is all in the name. Yes, most of the shots and drinks are mixed with absinth – you can even get a hot chocolate laced with the stuff! We tried the Oscar Wild shots with layers of kahlua, baileys and absinthe. Yet despite the potent concoctions, there’s no hen or stag do atmosphere in here – it’s a cosy, quirky and super cool little find. They were playing the Rolling Stones when we walked in and I was hooked.
Alchemia. If bars that make you feel you have taken a step back in time do it for you, then get thee to Alchemia where overstuffed furniture, ornate mirrors and a wardrobe you have to walk through to access further rooms in the pub are waiting. Strategically weathered, decidedly quirky and with a friendly atmosphere, we could easily have whiled away most of our evenings here, chatting over Zubrowka bison grass flavoured vodka and apple juice – try it, it tastes like apple pie! There’s also a rather tasty menu with a few vegetarian options – and it’s all cheaper than chips!
Zenit. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive of Polish cuisine as it seemed very meat and cheese heavy… But then we came across Zenit in the Jewish district and the world was a brighter place. Check out their instagram @zenit_miodawa and prepared to be blown away by their perfectly presented dishes. Delicious for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner with quality ingredients; vegetarian and vegan options; and tasty AF cocktails – we ate out here on the last night of our weekend in Krakow and it made for a lovely last supper. Try the Green Daddy cocktail for vodka with a spicy, chilli kick.
You can’t spend a weekend in Krakow and not get lost in the Old Town. Centred around the main market square – the largest medieval market square in Europe don’tcha know – there are an abundance of cobbled thoroughfares and courtyards to explore. But when hunger strikes or you’ve got the thirst, look out for…
Charlotte. Beautiful high ceilings, solid wood tables and low hanging lamps make Charlotte the stuff your interiors dreams are made of. Whilst their speciality is bakes and pastries (the couple opposite us seemed to have ordered a giant pot of melted chocolate which they proceeded to spread on their toast), there is a menu with French-influenced classics like creme brûlée and Croque Monsieur as well as salads for those that prefer to save room for their Kir Royales. Of which we downed plenty. The staff were lovely here too.
Legal Cakes. Cakes that are sugar-free, gluten-free, and even vegan? We’re in! If you have something of a sweet tooth then you have to squeeze in a stop at the marvellous Legal Cakes in Krakow. We are talking gooey, delicious desserts from chocolate brownie cake to carrot cake via a whole lot of tiramisu, and all have their own healthy-ish selling points so you can indulge without the guilt. We tried the sweet potato brownie cake and it was insane.
Cafe Camelot: This adorable shabby chic cafe has quaint outdoor seating in the shadow of a towering church. Sip on milky martinis in the cobbled street whilst soaking up the charm of the city. It’s right on the outskirts of the Old Town, so not too busy, and it’s placed on the arty street Tomasza – perfect for people watching! The interiors were super quirky with pink walls, hanging birds and pretty chandeliers.
Piec Art Acoustic Jazz Club. If your weekend in Krakow is in need of some chilled evening entertainment, this cool little underground bar plays host to jazz performances most nights. Grab a cocktail and listen to the smooth sounds of live jazz in one room, or stick near the bar and enjoy the chilled soul, blues and Motown.
What did we think of srprs.me?
It was so much fun not knowing our destination until we hit the airport and I think that booking a trip with these guys would make such a nice gift! We loved the Puro Hotel and how well thought out the location was – right by the train station so we didn’t have to fork out for a taxi from the airport. Essentially srprs.me puts the spontaneity back into travel and allows you to visit a place you might never have thought you would want to go. It was a thumbs up from us… but how do you feel about surprises?
Many thanks to srprs.me for the weekend away in Krakow! See how it all works on our previous post.